Today, I continue the series where I profile some fantasy baseball sleepers that could help you win your leagues in 2015. Every year, fantasy owners are looking for that late round hitter/pitcher who could help them deal with underperformance from an early round pick, or with an unexpected injury. Some will be busts, some will help you along the way.
I like to define a sleeper as a player who is one of the lower ranked players in standard leagues who could come out of nowhere to outperform their preseason ranking/value. Last season, we saw plenty of players come out of nowhere to help fantasy teams including Charlie Blackmon, Dee Gordon, Steve Pearce, Carlos Carrasco, among many others.
I will begin with the American League East division teams, in order of the 2014 standings, and proceed with the AL Central, AL West and so on.
You can find links to my other sleepers below:
The White Sox have been pretty active this offseason, signing Melky Cabrera to play left field, signing closer David Robertson to a four year deal, trading for #2 starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija and signing first baseman/designated hitter Adam LaRoche. LaRoche will play some first base but will also DH for the White Sox.
Not many know this, but LaRoche has hit 20 or more home runs in nine of the last ten seasons, and the one season that he did not hit 20 home runs was in 2011 when he played in just 43 games. And in those ten seasons, he has driven in 80 or more runs in seven of those seasons. A 20 home run, 80 RBI hitter is very valuable in fantasy circles these days. It cracks me up with I hear Steve Phillips call Matt Kemp a 30 home run, 100 RBI hitter. He could return to being a 30 home run hitter, but there aren't that many 30 home run hitters any more. LaRoche could do that in 2015 though.
He is coming off a pretty darn good season at the plate in Washington last year, where he hit .259-.362-.455 with 26 home runs, 73 runs scored and 92 RBI in 140 games. Not bad, right? You ask why is he a sleeper, right? Well, let's just say he is leaving a ball park in Washington that is a lefty killer, and moving to a park in Chicago, U.S. Cellular Field, that is very friendly to left handed hitters.
According to Stat Corner, Nationals Ball Park depressed home runs for left handed hitters by 25% last season, while U.S. Cellular Field increased home runs for lefties by 10%. That's a nice positive move that should benefit LaRoche. If he can hit the same number of fly balls in 2015 that he hit in 2014, about 160, and see a slight rise in his HR/FB% to 20%, LaRoche could hit 30 home runs in 2015. With Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton and Melky Cabrera hitting in front of him, his RBI total could hit the 100 level as well.
Steamer projects him to hit just .239 with 25 home runs and 77 RBI in 2015, and I think he will be closer to 30 home runs and 90-100 RBI. Last season, only 11 hitters hit 30 or more home runs, and only three of them were first baseman - Jose Abreu, Edwin Encarnacion and Anthony RIzzo. I see LaRoche joining that club in 2015.